The Ashes live & exclusive on Sky Sports
The Ashes is coming to Sky Sports this summer, with every Test shown exclusively on Sky’s dedicated Ashes channel. England will desperately want the urn back after a whitewash in Australia, but it won’t be easy.
It's probably cricket's most famous competition, mixing spiky confrontations with world class performances. Bowlers go in hard and fast, while the batsmen look to frustrate their opponents with steady run-building and the occasional embarrassing smash over long on. Fielders take flying catches, then drop routine ones, before some part-time spin somehow bags a centurion's wicket.
It's almost always breathtaking, high class entertainment, and you won't want to miss a second of the action.
Following the ODI World Cup, England fans were left with very little to be excited about, and with a dangerous, confident Aussie Test team visiting, even the most optimistic supporter had little confidence in anything other than a sound beating.
Then England played a very good New Zealand side in the long form of the game, and despite a draw being the end result, there were some positive signs. Captain Cook looks to be back in fine nick, and Joe Root has an incredible career ahead of him. Ben Stokes is a young but imposing genuine all-rounder, and Matt Prior's replacement Jos Buttler is both a highly competent ‘keeper, and a belter of a batsman.
A positive that saw less media coverage was the fine performance of Mark Wood; England look to have a seriously pacy seamer who can bang it in all day and maintain line and length. He perfectly complements the swing of Anderson and the bounce of Broad. There is weakness in spin, but Ali can still develop and will score runs, and selectors will surely be keeping a close eye on Rashid, who had an excellent ODI series against New Zealand. Root is also good for the odd wicket with his part-time efforts. Not Cook though, never Cook.
Test vs. ODI
The series win against the Kiwis shows how far England have come in a short time. The World Cup was abysmal, but a change of personnel, on and off the field, has reinvigorated proceedings. The ODI side looks aggressive and vastly talented, so morale around English cricket has instantly improved, as is the way in the current world of ultra-fickle, media-soaked sports opinion.
Despite the uplift in mood, caution should be urged; the Test side and ODI side share very few players. Root, Stokes and Buttler are definite, whilst impressive Test debutant Wood was only a late replacement in the side that won the ODI series. Cook's opening Test partner is still a cause for concern, and the poor form of both Balance and Bell cannot be understated.
The England cricket teams have been frighteningly low on confidence, and that's why the ODI win was indeed important. It brought back a sense that we have talent in our ranks, and the capacity to play entertaining cricket. Could the confidence seep into the Test side? Possibly, but Ballance and Bell won't have got any better as a result of that thrilling series. A new coach, Australian no less, will be the mastermind off the field, and we really have no idea what to expect from this.
Don't be surprised to see wickets tumbling like it's a T20 match, partly because form is changeable at the moment for so many players, and partly because The Ashes usually brings that kind of brash chaos to such a measured and patient game. That's exactly why it's unmissable Test cricket.
The first Test is in Cardiff, beginning on the 8th July, followed quickly afterwards by the second Test at Lord's on the 16th. We reach the midway point at Birmingham on the 29th, then visit Nottingham for Test number four on the 6th of August, ending in the final Test at The Oval on the 20th.
Watch on Sky Sports
For two months, Sky Sports 2 will become Sky Sports Ashes, showing live coverage, highlights, interviews, features, punditry and analysis. You'll see every ball and boundary, and of course you'll be able to enjoy the live decision reviews which have become such an entertaining addition to the game.
The commentary and analysis team will feature the regulars: Sir Ian Botham, David Gower, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, David Lloyd, Ian Ward and Michael Holding. They'll be joined by Aussie ex-captain Ricky Ponting, as well as his former teammate, and one of the finest bowlers the game has ever seen, Shane Warne.
Sky Sports viewers can also catch up on demand with Sky Go, and NOW TV customers with a Sky Sports Pass can stream via the online service.
Sky Sports is asking fans for their own images to use as part of an advert for this summer's Investec Ashes. Using the hashtag #MyAshesSummer, cricket fans can send in selfies and photos that show what the Ashes means to them. The images will be used alongside classic Ashes clips and behind-the-scenes footage of the Sky Sports cricket team to create something which captures the nation's love for the legendary sporting occasion. It will be updated after every Test, so there's plenty of time to get involved.
Catherine Parsons, Head of Sports Marketing said: “The Ashes is the pinnacle of cricket for English and Australian cricketers and for fans, no other competition matters more.
“It will bring us all together and our Sky Sports campaign is about capturing that mood of the nation through selfies, tweets, Instagram videos and status updates. By using #MyAshesSummer, viewers have the chance to be part of the great summer of sporting drama and show the nation why an Ashes summer is like no other.”
Get the date in your diary: 8th July is the start of the first Test in another Ashes series that's sure to be full of drama, excitement and not-so-good-natured sledging.